The Four Riders (Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death)

When the first rider came, he was dressed in white, which we thought was a bit odd for the time of year. We didn’t pay much mind, though. If anything, we thought he was just a nuisance. Mostly, his coming didn’t really affect us. We shut our doors and windows. We pulled down the blinds, and turned up the volume on the television, so that we wouldn’t hear the cries of pain from the streets below. Sometimes, admittedly, we would be late for work, because the creaky wooden carts carrying the bodies of the dead moved so slowly through the darkened streets. Eventually, the private security patrol set up barricades at the end of the block, to keep the filthy and diseased from getting in the way of our enjoyment.

When the second rider came, all dressed in red, he was a vibrant saviour. We rushed out into the streets to greet him with open arms. We thought he was bringing us freedom from terror. We drank his health, and worked long into the night melting metals for weapons and for bullets. We laid out a feast in his honour and served him the rarest of delicacies. We pureed decency, filleted soul. To return the honour, he entertained us with tricks of fire. He turned the sky red and black, turned bodies to smoke. We stood in the circle of firelight, transfixed with shock and awe.

When the third rider came, he was inky black, invisible. He moved only at night, and we never actually saw him. He curdled the milk in our breasts and contaminated the meat on our forks. Water tasted of bitter metals, fruit rotted on the limbs, and vegetables withered at the root. We heard the children crying for something wholesome, something real. But for the most part, we were able to distract them with shiny things, with baubles and tinsel.

When the fourth rider came, he was pale as an angel. We threw our doors wide, and begged him to step inside. We were that tired, you see. All around us, the world was in flames. All around us, the poison was spilling and spreading. We begged the pale rider to step inside and lead us to a better place. We begged him to bring us some peace. We begged him to release us from the prison of our own making. He threw back his head and laughed.